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Case Law: How to find and use case law: How to find case law

What is case law? Where can you find Scottish and English case law? How can you check the status of case law?

How to find case law

You will usually wish to find a case by party names (case name), by citation, or by subject.

There are a number of ways to do this both online and in the Library using printed sources.

Video: Finding case law  |  Finding case law online Finding case law in the Library

Video: Finding case law

How to find case law online

How to find cases using a Westlaw Cases Search by:

e.g. Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers

You can search for a case by party names (case name) by entering these in the 'Parties' box.

Select the 'Search' button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

Tip: For cases where one of the parties is 'Her Majesty's Advocate', use the search term Advocate (not HMA or Her Majesty's Advocate).

e.g. [2004] 2 AC 457

You can search for a case by citation by entering this in the 'Citation' box.

Select the 'Search' button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

 

Tip: You can search by either the traditional citation to a series of law reports (e.g. [2004] 2 AC 457 or [2004] 2 All ER 995) or the more recent 'neutral citation' (e.g. [2004] UKHL 22).

e.g. Media and entertainment; Breach of confidence; Privacy; Supermodel

You can search for a case by general subjects or a more specific keywords by entering these in the 'Subject/Keyword' box.

You can search for a case by any term occurring in the text  by entering these in the 'Free Text' box.

Select the 'Search' button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

 

Tip: 'Subjects' (e.g. media and entertainment) and 'keywords' (e.g. breach of confidence) are added by editors at Westlaw and describe the general subjects covered by a case.  'Free text' terms (e.g. supermodel) are any occurring in the full text of a case document - they may help find a specific case, but may not be relevant to the main legal issues considered in the case.

e.g. Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995, s.47

By selecting 'More options' you can use additional boxes to search for cases which cite a section of an act or other piece of legislation.

Enter the title of the act in the 'Legislation Title' box and then select the provision type (section, regulation etc.) from the 'Legislation Provision No.' dropdown and enter the number in the box.

Select the 'Search' button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

 

Tip: You can also find cases which cite a section by finding the legislation/provision using a Legislation Search and then looking under the 'Primary References' to find 'Key Cases Citing' or 'All Cases Citing'.

e.g. Cadder v HM Advocate [2010] UKSC 43, 2011 SC (UKSC) 13

By selecting 'More options' you can use additional boxes to search for cases which cite  another earlier case.

Enter the party names (case name) in the 'Cases Cited (Party)' box or enter the citation in the 'Cases Cited (Citation)' box.

Select the 'Search' button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

 

Tip: You can also find later cases which cite a particular case by finding the known case using a Cases Search and then, from the 'Case Analysis', looking under 'Primary References' to find 'Key Cases Citing' and 'All Cases Citing' .

How to use Lexis Library Cases search to find cases by:

e.g. Cadder v H M Advocate

After logging into Lexis+ you are at the home page. You can search for cases using the main search box, but it is often more useful to use the ‘cases’ search if specifically looking for cases.

From the ‘Content’ options below the search box, select ‘Cases’. You are now on the cases search page. Select ‘Advanced Search’ above the search box. You now see options for searching for terms in document ‘segments’ (or fields).

To search for a case by case name we can enter the party names in the ‘Case name’ box, for example: Cadder advocate. Select the search button beside the main search box and a list of results is displayed.

e.g. 2011 SC (UKSC) 13

After logging into Lexis+ you are at the home page. You can search for cases using the main search box, but it is often more useful to use the ‘cases’ search if specifically looking for cases.

From the ‘Content’ options below the search box, select ‘Cases’. You are now on the cases search page. Select ‘Advanced Search’ above the search box. You now see options for searching for terms in document ‘segments’ (or fields).

To search for acase by citation youcan enter this in the ‘Citation’ search box, for example: 2011 SC (UKSC) 13. Select the search button beside the main search box and a list of results is displayed.

You can then select a document to view.

e.g. cases which centred on the defence of reasonable excuse being used in the context of carrying an offensive weapon as part of a costume.

After logging into Lexis+ you are at the home page. You can search for cases using the main search box, but it is often more useful to use the ‘cases’ search if specifically looking for cases.

From the ‘Content’ options below the search box, select ‘Cases’. You are now on the cases search page. Select ‘Advanced Search’ above the search box. You now see options for searching for terms in document ‘segments’ (or fields).

To search for cases by topic or facts, you can enter our search terms in the ‘All of these terms’ box, for example: "offensive weapons" AND "reasonable excuse" AND costume.(Here exact phrases are indicated by inverted commas, and because you want to find all the terms in a document these are linked with AND.)

(Another option would be to enter our search terms in the ‘Summary’ box in the ‘Advanced search’ – this would only find documents where editors at Lexis had included the words as terms in the Headnote or as Catchwords when indexing the case.)

Select ‘Add’, then select the search button beside the main search box.

The results are displayed. You can then follow links to view reports and other documents related to these cases.

After logging into Lexis+ you are at the home page. You can search for cases using the main search box, but you may prefer to browse for cases by report series and volume.

From the ‘Content’ options below the search box, select ‘Cases’. You are now on the cases search page.

From the cases Search screen, select 'Case Reports' (or 'Case Summaries' or 'Judgments').

You can then navigate from report series title, to volume, to case by using +/-.

Select the case name to view full-text.

How to find case law using other online sources

JustisOne

You can select the main 'Search' option and enter search terms.

Alternatively for a more refined search you can select 'Advanced' and then  select the ‘Cases’ link in the bar across the top of the advanced search page. Options for searching include:

  • Party Names: use the ‘Parties’ field in the Cases search.
  • Citation: use the ‘Citation’ field in the Cases search.
  • Subject: use the ‘Full Text’ field  in the Cases search.

The search results list displays records matching your query. Follow the link to individual records. To view the full text of the report, from the record select the ‘Full Text’ or 'Citations and Reports' link. If the full text is not available on JustisOne then you may be able to follow links to the full text on other sources (e.g. Westlaw or Lexis Library).

 

HeinOnline: English Reports, Full Reprint (1220 - 1865)

On the Welcome page under ‘Subscribed Libraries’, select ‘English Reports’, then ‘English Reports, Full Reprint (1220-1867)’. You can then choose to perform a simple ‘Case Locator’ search or ‘Browse’ the reports. Case Locator search options include:

  • Case Name (Bradshaw)
  • English Reports Citation (77 Eng Rep 1283)
  • Nominative Citation (2 Wils KB 137)
  • Key Word Search
BAILII

To look for cases, select the ‘Case Law Search’ link.

  • Party Names: use the ‘Case name’ field.
  • Citation: use the ‘Citation’ field.
  • Subject: use fields ‘All these words’, ‘Exact phrase’, ‘Any of these words’, or ‘Advanced query’.
Curia

By following the link to ‘Case law: Search form’, you can search by ‘Names of parties’, ‘Case number’, and ‘Words in the text’.

HUDOC

By following the links to ‘HUDOC database’, then ‘Advanced Search’, you can search by ‘Case Title’, ‘Application Number’, ‘Text’, and ‘Keyword’.

Online sources of case law

How to find case law in the Library

Cadder v HM Advocate 2011 SC (UKSC) 13

1. Find out which series of reports the legal abbreviation refers to (N.B. neutral citations do not refer to a series of law reports). For example, SC (UKSC) is Session Cases (UK Supreme Court) cases:

2. Go the relevant series of reports (in the alphabetical sequence on level 5), e.g. Session Case (UK Supreme Court).

3. Look for the relevant year and/or volume, e.g. 2011.

4. Look up the page on which the report begins, e.g. 13.

Cadder v HM Advocate 2011 SC (UKSC) 13

Current Law Case Citator

In the Citator cases are listed alphabetically with their citations. The Citator is comprised of several volumes, each covering a separate period of time.

1. Look up the case by first party name in the alphabetical list:

  • Begin with the earliest volume (1948-1976) and work through each volume until you find the case (if you know the year the case was reported you can go straight to the volume covering the relevant period)

  • If it is a Scottish case make sure you look in the Scottish sequence at the back of the Citator (if unsure of the jurisdiction look in both parts)

  • If it is a case within the last year, look in the ‘Cumulative Table of Cases’ in the most recent issue of the Current Law Monthly Digest.

 

2. Take a note of the citation(s) listed beside the case name (e.g. 2011 SC (UKSC) 13);

3. Use the citation(s) to find the case on the Library shelves (see 'By Citation').

N.B. For cases reported before 1948 you may need to use other digests in the law reference section (e.g. the Faculty Digest).

Textbooks

Use textbooks or encyclopaedias in a relevant area of law - these usually contain references to major cases. Case citations may be found in footnotes and in the Table of Cases (at the front of a textbook). use SUPrimo to find textbooks:

Current Law Year Book

Use the Current Law Year Book to look up case summaries in the index:

  • refer to each year’s volumes separately;
  • for cases within the last year, use parts of the Current Law Monthly Digest;
  • in the index cases are referred to by year and paragraph number e.g. 93/459;
  • look up the case summary (by paragraph number) this contains a full citation.

Use the citation to locate the case in printed law reports (or online).

Children (Scotland) Act 1995, s 11

Current Law Legislation Citator

Start with the volume covering the date of your act and trace forward in time. Find the act by year and chapter / asp number (pre-1707 Scots Acts and asps appear towards the front of each volume.)

The entry for each act lists notable cases which considered individual sections reported during the period covered by each volume.

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